Technology and Worship

Something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit recently is the role of technology in worship. I’ve read some really interesting stuff over the last few years about the relationship between technology, worship, and religion. As a person of faith but also as a person who uses technology quite a bit and works in the technology industry, I’m very conscious of the role both these things play in my life, the ways in which they can sometimes be in conflict, but also the ways in which they come together.

Technology and mindfulness

One of the challenging things about technology is it is having a significant impact on our ability to spend time in what I might call mindfulness, whether that’s in some sort of formal prayer or other worship, or whether it’s a more secular form of meditation or even thoughtfulness. I was talking with someone at an industry dinner last night who said he was noticing more and more people he knew were taking time to meditate. I suspect the reason is technology – and especially our smartphones – are soaking up more and more of our “dead time”, the time we might have otherwise spent being contemplative. I think we’ve lost something as a result of this penetration in our lives by our technology. And yet, technology can be a part of the solution here too. It was interesting to see Craig Federighi use a meditation app during one of his demos at WWDC this year and such apps have been part of making mindfulness available to people without having to go through traditional classes or groups. But we still have to make a deliberate effort to spend time in these activities. There’s a danger we spend so much time caught up in our devices, our social networks, sports scores, and who knows what else, that we never take time to sit back and really think and ponder what’s most important in our lives, whether that be our faith, our families, or our friendships.

Sabbaths and technology

Some of the most interesting articles I’ve read over the years on this subject relate to the ancient concept of the Sabbath and the ways in which observance of a special day set aside each week can help with this over-dependence on technology. In some faiths, the use of technology on these Sabbath days is discouraged or prohibited. So it provides a day of complete disconnection from these distractions and the negative influences they can have on our lives. I certainly try to make my Sabbath a separate day, a day to disconnect from work and from other day-to-day activities like watching TV, sports, social networking, and so on. But what’s interesting is technology is actually still a very important part of my Sabbath worship. I have my Scriptures and other religious materials on my phone and tablet, I use a computer to research and prepare lessons when I have to teach on Sundays, and my church has recently been encouraging members to use digital versions of religious materials rather than costly and environmentally impactful paper books and magazines. This coming weekend, my church will have its semiannual general conference, and we’ll be watching the proceedings in our home through streaming video on our television.

A key challenge associated with all this is the same devices I use for these religious purposes on Sundays are the ones that carry the day-to-day distractions like email, sports scores, social networks, and all the rest. This can make it tough to make the kind of clean break on my Sabbath. I still get interrupted by notifications and prompts to exercise from my Apple Watch. I’ve often wished there was an easier way to switch my devices into a sort of “Sabbath Mode” — I would turn off certain notifications along with activity tracking. But the reality is, as adults, we have to take responsibility to control our own actions and take time to ensure a proper balance between the various facets of our lives. On a monthly basis, I engage in a 24-hour fast from food and drink, and I find this monthly exercise gives me the self-control I need to make wiser choices about what I consume the rest of the month too, and technology “fasts” can be helpful in much the same way.

Families, kids, and technology

I know a lot of parents worry about the amount of time their kids spend absorbed in their devices and their inability to form proper social relationships when so many interactions with their friends are mediated by devices rather than face-to-face. I suspect some of this concern is overblown – each generation has always found its own ways to communicate and stay in touch with friends – but I also think there are some real challenges here. However, I suspect many of us parents need to look inward and ask tough questions about our own behavior with regard to technology before we try to modify our kids’ behaviors. The solution often has to start with us and mitigating our over-dependence on our devices and technology. But technology also has the potential to reconnect us with our kids if it’s used in the right ways – I know a number of parents who have embraced apps their age groups otherwise wouldn’t in an effort to connect with their kids. Here, as in the other areas I’ve talked about, I feel like it’s an over-simplification to paint technology as purely a negative force. So much of the impact it will have in our lives will depend on how we choose to respond to it and the degree to which we decide to remain in control rather than letting these technologies control us.

Religion and technological allegiances

So far, I’ve been talking about religion and worship in a literal sense, but I’d like to close by talking about a less literal application. Edmund Burke talked about the “little platoons” we are all a part of – the groups of which we’re members and towards whom we feel an affinity. He talked about our loyalties to these little platoons as the forerunners of loyalties to larger causes including patriotism. The religious groups to which we belong can be some of these groups and our loyalty to them and our fellow members can be a strong cohesive force. But in the technology market, we frequently see quasi-religious adherence to particular technology companies and ecosystems. Unfortunately, this often manifests itself in negative rather than positive ways. Whether it’s “Fandroids” or “Fanbois”, so many people become so caught up in their allegiance to technology ecosystems they become irrational in their intolerance of other groups. I do wonder to what extent this zealotry is the result of an absence of true religious feeling in today’s world and people’s need to feel part of a group and its associated identity.

Interestingly, I think technology companies sometimes tap into this – Samsung’s commercials for a while poked fun at Apple fans, while Apple itself clearly tries to tap into the loyalty to its products in its own advertising. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that per se — brand loyalty can be a strong differentiator for a company. But technology companies should also be wary of assuming this allegiance to their brands – or antipathy towards other brands – can ever be enough. Just as true religion has to be sustaining and fulfilling to maintain the loyalty of its adherents, technology brands have to continue to deliver the value that generated loyalty in the past if they are to maintain it. We’ve seen major religions and major technology companies wax and wane over the arc of history and I suspect there are lessons to be learned here for technology companies as well.

Published by

Jan Dawson

Jan Dawson is Founder and Chief Analyst at Jackdaw Research, a technology research and consulting firm focused on consumer technology. During his sixteen years as a technology analyst, Jan has covered everything from DSL to LTE, and from policy and regulation to smartphones and tablets. As such, he brings a unique perspective to the consumer technology space, pulling together insights on communications and content services, device hardware and software, and online services to provide big-picture market analysis and strategic advice to his clients. Jan has worked with many of the world’s largest operators, device and infrastructure vendors, online service providers and others to shape their strategies and help them understand the market. Prior to founding Jackdaw, Jan worked at Ovum for a number of years, most recently as Chief Telecoms Analyst, responsible for Ovum’s telecoms research agenda globally.

392 thoughts on “Technology and Worship”

  1. Back in the early 2000s, monastic practices were becoming quite the trend among the younger groups in stark contrast to the simultaneous movement of making church more contemporary. As someone who works in the live entertainment industry I am always amazed at how much churches are willing to spend on technology. I shouldn’t be, but I always am.

    Professionally it is always engaging. I feel it is an opportunity to contribute. Spiritually I am mostly agnostic to the technology. But i am always opposed to the detractors against technology and the detractors against tradition. Ultimately it is, or at least I think it should be, about finding a way to enhance a spiritual engagement. If the technology interferes, ditch it. If tradition gets in the way, ditch it. I think a church’s endeavors to help their parishioners’ own struggle and help them figure that out is a great idea, with technology sabbaths and such.

    My brother, who was head of IT at a bank, recently retired. I am not all that sure he has sat in front of a computer more than once a month since, maybe less. I think he may have even ditched his smartphone. He has definitely turned off his email capabilities if he still has it. For some it is easier to step back than others,

    I hate religious arguments, spiritual or technological. No one ever changes their mind and there is nothing productive about it. It is never about understanding and is an ego stroke for either side. Sometimes arguers use some abstract notion of “balance” as justification. There is never balance in such an argument, just a breaking of the see-saw at the fulcrum.

    Joe

    1. “There is never balance in such an argument, just a breaking of the see-saw at the fulcrum.”

      Great insight. Thank you.

  2. Jan. I appreciate your article. It does seem we are forever building things that threaten to dominate us. We love extensions of ourselves.

    You might enjoy Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath. “The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.” p14

  3. With grfeat features suсh as robust durability, superior sound impedance ɑnd focus capability, tһis transducer pгovides
    highly acceptable resultѕ when սsed in non-destructive
    testing applications. Ι ѡas amazed at hοw excellent thе product wаs

  4. Thank you, I have recently been looking for info about this subject for ages
    and yours is the best I have discovered so far. However, what
    about the bottom line? Are you sure in regards
    to the source?

  5. Pretty component to content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital
    to claim that I get in fact enjoyed account your weblog posts.
    Anyway I will be subscribing on your feeds or even I success you get right of entry to persistently quickly.

  6. Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!
    Thank you

  7. Good day! I know this is kind of off topic but I
    was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website?
    I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m
    looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be fantastic
    if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  8. You could definitely see your expertise within the article you write.

    The arena hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe.
    At all times follow your heart.

  9. Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs!
    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Keep up the excellent work!

  10. My brother recommended I might like this web site. He used to be entirely right.
    This post truly made my day. You can not imagine simply how so much time I had spent for
    this information! Thanks!

  11. Good day! This is my first visit to your blog!
    We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a
    marvellous job!

  12. My relatives every time say that I am wasting my
    time here at net, however I know I am getting familiarity all the time by reading thes good
    articles or reviews.

  13. Fantastic goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too magnificent.
    I actually like what you have acquired here, really like what you’re saying and the way
    in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of
    to keep it wise. I cant wait to read much more from you. This is
    really a terrific website.

  14. I like the valuable information you provide in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly.
    I’m quite certain I will learn many new stuff right here!
    Best of luck for the next!

  15. My brother suggested I might like this blog. He used to
    be entirely right. This publish actually made my day.
    You cann’t imagine simply how a lot time I had spent for this information! Thank you!

  16. First off I want to say terrific blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t
    mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.

    I have had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
    I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are
    wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?
    Appreciate it!

  17. I have been exploring for a little bit for any high quality articles or weblog posts on this kind of house .
    Exploring in Yahoo I finally stumbled upon this web site.

    Reading this info So i am satisfied to express that I have a very excellent
    uncanny feeling I came upon exactly what I needed.
    I most undoubtedly will make certain to don?t
    omit this site and give it a glance on a relentless basis.

  18. Magnificent goods from you, man. I have be mindful your stuff prior to
    and you’re simply extremely wonderful. I actually like
    what you have received right here, certainly like
    what you are saying and the way in which by which you
    say it. You’re making it entertaining and you continue to care
    for to stay it wise. I can not wait to read much more from you.
    That is actually a tremendous site.

  19. Howdy! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Cheers

  20. Hello, this weekend is nice for me, for the reason that this point in time i am reading this impressive informative article here at my residence.

  21. I really love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you build this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m trying to create my very own website and want
    to know where you got this from or exactly what the
    theme is named. Many thanks!

  22. My programmer is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP.

    I have always disliked the idea because of the costs.
    But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using Movable-type on several websites for
    about a year and am worried about switching to another platform.
    I have heard great things about blogengine.net.
    Is there a way I can import all my wordpress content into it?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

  23. You really make it seem really easy along with your presentation however I to find this matter to be actually something which I feel
    I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely wide for me.

    I am taking a look forward on your subsequent put up, I’ll try to get the cling of
    it!

  24. Hello everyone, it’s my first pay a quick visit at this web site, and
    article is genuinely fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these types of articles or reviews.

  25. Hi, I do believe this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it 😉
    I will come back once again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you
    be rich and continue to help others.

  26. I’m really inspired together with your writing abilities and also with
    the structure to your blog. Is this a paid subject matter or did you modify it
    your self? Anyway keep up the excellent high quality writing, it’s rare to look a
    nice weblog like this one today..

  27. Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment
    (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything.
    Do you have any recommendations for novice blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  28. I’ve learn a few good stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking for revisiting.
    I wonder how so much effort you set to make one of these magnificent informative website.

  29. When I originally commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me
    when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get
    four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be an easy method
    you can remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!

  30. My brother suggested I might like this website. He was totally right.
    This post actually made my day. You can not imagine just how
    much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  31. Hello there, I found your website by means of Google at the same time as searching for a related matter, your website came up, it looks
    good. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
    Hi there, just became alert to your blog via Google, and found that it’s truly informative.
    I am going to be careful for brussels. I will be grateful in case you continue this in future.
    Many other folks will likely be benefited from
    your writing. Cheers!

  32. It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.
    I have read this post and if I could I want to suggest
    you some interesting things or tips. Maybe you can write
    next articles referring to this article. I want to read even more things about it!

  33. This design is steller! You definitely know how to keep a reader amused.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved
    to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Excellent job.
    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.

    Too cool!

  34. I will right away snatch your rss feed as I can’t
    find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service.

    Do you have any? Kindly let me know in order that I may subscribe.
    Thanks.

  35. I like the valuable information you provide in your
    articles. I will bookmark your weblog and check again here frequently.
    I’m quite sure I will learn lots of new stuff right here! Best
    of luck for the next!

  36. It’s actually a cool and helpful piece of info.

    I am happy that you shared this useful information with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Thanks , I have just been looking for information approximately this
    subject for a long time and yours is the best I have
    discovered so far. However, what about the bottom line? Are you certain about the supply?

  38. It’s really very complicated in this full of activity life to listen news on Television,
    thus I simply use the web for that reason, and take the most up-to-date news.

  39. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you
    design this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?

    Plz respond as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like
    to find out where u got this from. kudos

  40. Hello i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anywhere, when i read this piece of writing
    i thought i could also create comment due to this sensible post.

  41. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets
    I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.

    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time
    and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this.
    Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward
    to your new updates.

  42. I have read several excellent stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for
    revisiting. I wonder how so much attempt you put
    to create one of these fantastic informative website.

  43. It’s appropriate time to make a few plans for the future and it’s time
    to be happy. I’ve learn this put up and if I may I want
    to recommend you few interesting things or advice. Maybe you can write
    subsequent articles regarding this article. I wish to read more things about
    it!

  44. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr…
    well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  45. It is the best time to make some plans for the future
    and it’s time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could
    I want to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions.

    Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article.
    I wish to read more things about it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *